She is in the midst of peaceful slumber, nestled securely under sheets that contain her in an essence of warm comfort within her canopy bed. Dreams of wild free horses fill her head, their bodies galloping across grassy fields, their beautiful rainbow manes glittering in the sunlight. The first cry doesn't break her from sleep neither does the second or third. Until the rapid thud of footsteps echo close by… she also does not stir when the doors are flung open and neither does she awake when the yells and shouts resonate in the house, thick with urgency. The maid has to shake her body with a violent shove.
“Wake up, Miss Attaway.”
The girl’s eyes flicker open and focuses on the maid’s bright eyes set against a face that is tight with worry and alarm. “Nadia, what happened?” She mummers, wiping sleep from her eyes. “It's your father, my lady!” And even in the silver light pouring through the window and the dim flicker on the candle, she could make out the frightened tremble to her lips. “Your father..” she continues softly, “My lady, he has been gravely injured.”
Pearl immediately pushes away the covers and slips out of bed. Her cold clammy fingers find the hand of Nadia, and her eyes stare into her worried eyes. “Nadia, what has happened?” Cold fear bubbling to sweat on her skin.
“Your father's ship was attacked by some terrible creature. Most of the sailors died, but your father – he managed to escape but was badly hurt.” A quake in her voice. “Where is he? where is he? Pearl cries, with a rising hysterical edge as a sudden cold wave washes over her body.
“He is in the living room..” That answer prompts her to run as fast as she could, her bare feet making a loud slapping sound as she moves through the hallway. Her heart hammering in her throat.
‘Please be alive..please be alive.’
She burst through the doors; her eyes immediately caught the figure of her dad placed across the seat. She runs to him, and nearly steps on a fallen sailor on her way to him, nearly toppling over the fallen crew member. Apologies fall her lips, and she spares a sad glance at the poor bodies littering their spacious living room. Then, she gingerly stepped over them to seek out her parent.
His skin is sallow and rubbery, stretches thinly across his skull as sweat drips from his clammy forehead. His breathing is labored. Eyes quickly take in his body and a gasp of horror is emitted from her pink lips, as her fix on the bandaged stump cut off at his right knee.
“My poor father,” She sighs piteously, running her fingers through his filthy clump of matted hair, the gesture leaving residue on her pale fingers. “What has happened?” She looks to the captain, who watches her with mournfully sad eyes, hooded with despair from his seat in the corner. “We were attacked.. Miss Attaway,” He croaks, and with a groan he straightens up in the seat.
“By some creature from the deep..” There is an ominous edge to his story, wringing his hands together in fear. Anxiety etches deep lines on his weathered face, while her brow furrows in confusion.
“What kind of creature?” Pursing her lips, and keeping her gaze focused on him. She didn’t want to miss one detail of the horrific story of a killer whale or murderous shark if it was indeed true. “What could have hurt my father so badly?”
Captain Jack swallows hard, his patchy, discolored lips tremble slightly, and shadows move across his face. His white eyelashes twitch nervously. “Assassins Miss.. they call themselves assassins of the seas, a force to challenge the Templars.” He repeats.
Her green eyes sharpen, boring into the captains weak ones that are visibly strained with guilt and exhaustion. On noting the disbelief coloring her gaze, he explains weakly, his voice cracking in some areas, “A sudden fog came upon us-,” his tone rising just a little bit, “- and these creatures with a hundred hands just appeared from the water. They started killing our crew and we just managed to fight them off.” He coughs and hacks snort from his nose before continuing in a raspy tone, “I could hear one of them tell the other that they were to go after Templars- a woman I think or …it could be a siren or a mermaid - I don't know what happened..It was so fast.”
He wheezes a dry, painful-sounding cough, and Pearl tightens her fingers until they bunch her nightdress. She can hear her heart hammering against her chest, and her breath slowing to a frightened whisper.
“They were so vicious,” Fingers seek out his hand to feel the fading comfortable warmth, and the weak pulse of his wrist beneath his cold skin.
“These creatures,” she said slowly, struggling to process the information in her mind that felt thick and suspended in inanimation, like she was underwater, slowly drowning. “They chopped off his leg,”
“No, Miss. He ripped it off.” His eyes were swallowed by a dark shadowy shock , and she has to nudge him a little. He jerks awake, color and life returning to his features. Droplets of water roll off his body, and darken the carpet. His mouth began moving without any prompting.
“He fought them – we fought as hard as we could..Your father gave him a good whacking –gave it everything – we would have been dead. All of us would have died if not for the dog.”
Another hacking cough shakes his body, and spittle drips from his mouth. “The dog slowed the creatures down; they didn’t want to hurt the animal. Liam attacked them, but he was unable to battle the creature .”
He stops for a breather, and Pearl swallows the acidic taint coating her tongue.
“The creature ripped off his leg with his bare hands. We did everything for him – bandaged the wound, and bought the survivors back.” He relapses into a cold silence, and his eyes roll into his head, as his lids slip shut. Pearl's gaze rests on her sick father, feeling pity stir within her sinking depths. Her body jerks at the sudden noise breaking the morose silence. One sailor positioned near the window is stricken with a sudden coughing fit. Immediately, the servants are by his side and they tend to him, trying to ease his suffering.
The noise wakes Captain Jack, and he shifts his weight, but the movement is difficult and his face contorts with pain. Pearl has to drag her body to stand on unsteady legs, and she walks to lean over the poor suffering man.
“Don’t worry, it’s not your fault,” She whispers softly, chocking back tears and hoping she can reach him in drug induced stupor. Just looking at her father writhing in agony is just too much to bear, and the suffering that surrounds her breaks her heart. They were loyal men, they didn’t deserve this. Bile rises from the back of her throat, the stench of putrefying sickness, iron blood and rotting flesh assails her nose.
“Did you call the physician?” she turns to the head servant. Standing up to brush a few strands of hair from his face, "Peter." Placing her hand on his forehead, her skin absorbs the chill of his skin and the sweat of his brow.
"Yes," the head butler Pierre whispers softly, afraid that any louder would disturb the fitful sleep of the recovering sailors.
"Uhuuuhhh..." A sailor releases a pained groan, twitching in his fitful sleep. Beside him a man breathes heavily, coughing white spittle that darkens the heavy blanket he is wrapped in. "Thank you, Pierre," Her voice curling with the edge of tears, but there is a little enforced iron in her tone. " If you would like..Miss. I can request Lucille to fetch some water or coffee." She clasps her hands in front of her and gathers her strength. "Yes, Please." She sighs, "I want to wait till my father wakes up. I will take some hot chocolate." Her father stirs in his sleep, and the girl's heart cracks into a million pieces. The ground shifts, unsteady, she nearly collapses into despair. Her night was filled with heart-wrenching sobs, worrying and fretting over the fate of her only family.